As the Australian Open 2018 gets underway, all eyes will be on the usual culprits of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, albeit for different reasons.
Apart from the Big 3, there will be a focus on a group of NextGen players who primarily came into the spotlight in 2017. This group has been knocking on the doors for some time and last year took advantage of the many players carrying and later withdrawing with injuries.
The Australian Open will be the first big indicator of how ready they are to stay on the big stage and will be a precursor to how 2018 may fare for them. They will be helped by the fact that several top players will be returning from lengthy injury breaks who may not be at their best.
We will take a look at a few of the NextGen players who are expected to make their mark in 2018.
#1 Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios has been on the tour since 2012 so it is easy to forget that he is only 22 years old and very much a part of the NextGen. The mercurial Aussie has all the tools and the talent to be a top ten player rather than his current ATP ranking of 17 and highest ranking of 13.
His performance has been overshadowed by his frequent withdrawals as well as his controversial behavior. In 2017, he withdrew from Indian Wells due to illness and from Queen's Club, Wimbledon, and Washington due to injuries. At the Shanghai Masters, he abruptly retired during his first round match.
He was accused of tanking his 4th round match at the 2015 Wimbledon which he denied. However, in 2017 he admitted that he had tanked about 8 matches as he would rather do something else than play tennis. He has openly questioned his own dedication to tennis.
Kyrgios is the second player after Lleyton Hewitt to register a victory against Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic in their very first meeting. His best showings at the Grand Slams are quarter-final appearances at the 2014 Wimbledon and the 2015 Australian Open.
Last year, he reached his first Masters 1000 final, defeated both Djokovic & Nadal, and had an epic semi-final match against Federer at Miami. Kyrgios has won the 2018 Brisbane International. The only thing stopping the enigmatic Kyrgios from reaching greater heights is himself. He will need to decide if tennis is a passion or job for him.